John H. Williams

2006 Outstanding Business Leader

Founder, Williams Companies

John Williams comes from a family with a long entrepreneurial history – a tradition he continued when he founded the Williams Companies in 1949 with his brother Charles and cousin David, Jr.

As the successor to the family-owned Williams Brothers Corp., founded by his uncles, Miller and David Williams, the Williams Companies deepened the Williams name and presence in the energy industry.

John Williams graduated from Ruston Academy in Havana, Cuba, and Yale University, where he majored in civil engineering. He joined the family business in 1940 and worked on projects in North and South America and the Middle East, in addition to serving in the Navy Civil Engineering Corps during World War II.

At age 31, Williams co-founded the Williams Companies and soon after acquired the Great Lakes Pipe Line Company, an asset that laid the foundation for the company as it is known today. During his 29-year tenure as CEO, the market value of the Williams Companies increased from $25,000 in 1949 to $406.5 million in 1978. Today, the company is valued at $12.36 billion.

Williams has earned many accolades for his professional and community leadership, including an award from the Bolivian government for his company’s work in that country and the Governor’s Arts Award for his role in establishing Tulsa’s Performing Arts Center. He also holds honorary degrees from Oklahoma Christian College and Oral Roberts University.

Williams continues to serve as an honorary director of the Williams Companies and Willbros, director of APCO Argentina and Unit Corporation, and trustee and finance committee chairman of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust.

As a member of the National Petroleum Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Commerce and Industry Hall of Honor, Tulsa Hall of Fame and now the TU College of Business Administration Hall of Fame, Williams’ achievements distinguish him as a leader in his industry and community.